The state of New York is preparing to give over 800 elderly people robot companions in an effort to tackle what they are calling an epidemic of loneliness, The Verge reports.
While the robots won’t be able to assist the older adults with physical tasks, it will be able to help users contact love ones, keep track of health goals including exercise and medication and it will even have the ability to engage in small talk.
In an effort to work toward a solution for the social isolation issue that is on the rise among the elderly, the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) will organize the distribution of the new robots which are named ElliQ.
“Many features attracted us to ElliQ — that it is a proactive tool, remembers the interactions with the individual, focuses on health and wellness, stress reduction, sleep, hydration, etc,” said NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen. “It focuses on what matters to individuals: memories, life validation, interactions with friends and families and promotes overall good health and well being.”
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According to a study, roughly 14 million Americans over the age of 65 currently live alone with the number expected to increase over the course of the next decade as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age. They also suggest that long-term loneliness is just bad on a person’s health as smoking is.
The ElliQ robot was developed by Intuition Robotics who allege that the robot will be able to both project empathy and form bonds with its users.
It is also expected to remember key details about a person’s life, centering its character around the users interests. While it has been in development through the company for years, the widespread deployment will be the real test outside of the dozens of home trials used to perfect its functionality.